American billionaire Ken Griffin paid about US$500 million for two paintings by Abstract Expressionist masters in one of the largest private art deals ever, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the transaction.
Griffin, founder of Chicago-based hedge fund firm Citadel, bought works by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning from David Geffen’s foundation.
The deal, completed in the fall, is a record for both artists and exceeds the last high mark for a private sale, the US$300 million that Qatar Museums paid for Paul Gauguin’s painting “When Will You Marry?”
Griffin’s purchase preceded a slowdown in the art market in the second half of 2015, the report said.
Sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London earlier this month fell from a year ago.
“In order to own the greatest art historical objects of our time one has to go above and beyond to obtain them,” said Abigail Asher, a partner at art advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates Inc. in New York, who wasn’t involved in the transaction.
Griffin bought de Kooning’s 1955 oil on canvas titled “Interchange” for about US$300 million and Pollock’s 1948 “Number 17A” canvas for about US$200 million, the sources said.
The de Kooning fetched US$20.7 million in 1989, then an auction record for the artist and more than three times the highest pre-sale estimate of US$6 million, according to Artnet, which tracks auction prices.
Pollock’s work was featured in a 1949 Life magazine article that helped make him a household name.
Both paintings went on display at the Art Institute of Chicago in September 2015, said Amanda Hicks, director of public affairs at the museum.
Griffin has been a trustee since 2004 and helped build the museum’s Modern wing, she said.
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